Trial of omega fatty acid supplementation in toddlers born preterm shows promising results

March 1, 2018, Nationwide Children's Hospital

Researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital have shown that omega fatty acid supplements may improve autism spectrum disorder symptoms in toddlers who were born very preterm (more than 11 weeks early). The study was published recently in the Journal of Nutrition.

"The trial had two goals. First, we wanted to confirm the feasibility of a large study of toddlers born very preterm and exhibiting symptoms often seen with ASD. Second, we wanted to see what the effects of omega fatty acids would be on parent-reported ASD symptoms and related behaviors," says Sarah Keim, Ph.D., lead author on the study and principal investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's.

Dr. Keim and her team conducted a study where 31 toddlers who were born prematurely participated. For 3 months, half of them took a daily dietary supplement that contained a special combination of omega-3 and , and the other half took a placebo, although families were unaware of which they received to make the study rigorous.

The group that took the daily omega fatty supplement exhibited a greater reduction in ASD symptoms than those who took the placebo, according to ratings provided by the children's parents.

"We found clinically significant improvements in ASD symptoms in the treatment group, although the benefits were confined to one measure we used," explains Dr. Keim. "We need to do a larger trial to further understand the potential impacts on a larger group of children."

The researchers suggest that observed benefits of omega fatty acid supplementation could be due to the role of these nutrients in inflammation in the body. ASD is generally considered a neuroinflammatory condition, and influencing inflammation through nutritional supplementation could improve behaviors in children with ASD symptoms.

Researchers hope that by giving omega fatty acids to children early when they first show symptoms and the brain is still actively developing may help them long-term.

"Currently, no medications are available to help children born prematurely with the developmental delays and behavior problems they often experience. For very young children, the medications that physicians sometimes try tend to have many side effects. And we don't know what effect those medications have on brains that are still developing," says Dr. Keim. "If using omega fatty acid supplementation helps, it would have a really huge impact for these kids."

Dr. Keim and her team plan to expand the work in a full-scale trial in the future. They recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the effect of in children ages 2-6 year who have ASD.

Explore further: As kids' weight climbs, power of healthy fat supplements drops

Related Stories

As kids' weight climbs, power of healthy fat supplements drops

April 5, 2017
Body weight plays a significant role in how much benefit children may get from consuming "good" fats, new research suggests.

New discovery offers hope of protecting premature babies from blindness

February 9, 2018
Now there is hope of a new way to protect extremely premature babies from impaired vision or blindness resulting from the eye disease retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). A study at Sahlgrenska Academy published in JAMA Ophthalmology ...

Polyunsaturated fatty acids linked to reduced allergy risk

December 5, 2017
New research from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden reveals that high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids in children's blood are associated with a reduced risk of asthma or rhinitis at the age of 16 years. The study is published ...

Omega-3 fatty acids not found to up risk of heart disease

February 1, 2018
(HealthDay)—Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids is not associated with fatal or nonfatal coronary heart disease or major vascular events, according to a review published online Jan. 31 in JAMA Cardiology.

Fish oil supplements and dry eyes

November 13, 2017
Dear Mayo Clinic: Is it true that fish oil or an omega-3 supplement can help people with dry eyes? If I decide to take them, do omega-3 supplements have any side effects I should worry about?

Diets low in polyunsaturated fatty acids may be a problem for youngsters

September 13, 2013
In the first study to closely examine the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake among U.S. children under the age of 5, Sarah Keim, PhD, principal investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health at The Research Institute ...

Recommended for you

Students more likely to eat school breakfast when given extra time, new study finds

August 18, 2018
Primary school students are more likely to eat a nutritional breakfast when given 10 extra minutes to do so, according to a new study by researchers at Virginia Tech and Georgia Southern University.

Like shark attack and the lottery, unconscious bias influences cancer screening

August 17, 2018
What do shark attack, the lottery and ovarian cancer screening having in common? It turns out our judgments about these things are all influenced by unconscious bias.

Moderate carbohydrate intake may be best for health

August 17, 2018
Eating carbohydrates in moderation seems to be optimal for health and longevity, suggests new research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Phantom odors: One American in 15 smells odors that aren't there, study finds

August 16, 2018
Imagine the foul smell of an ash tray or burning hair. Now imagine if these kinds of smells were present in your life, but without a source. A new study finds that 1 in 15 Americans (or 6.5 percent) over the age of 40 experiences ...

US drug overdose deaths surge amid fentanyl scourge

August 16, 2018
US drug overdose deaths surged to nearly 72,000 last year, as addicts increasingly turn to extremely powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl as the supply of prescription painkillers has tightened.

Parental life span predicts daughters living to 90 without chronic disease or disability

August 15, 2018
Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that women whose mothers lived to at least age 90 were more likely to also live to 90, free of serious diseases and disabilities.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.